America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

America's #1 Balance Bike Destination
America's #1 Balance Bike Destination

Thursday, July 29, 2010

2010 Al Toefield Memorial Road Race 35+ (finish video)

The organizers of this race, while they only rank the ones who finish in the money and ignore the rest, were kind enough to send out a couple of links to the finishing sprints of the masters and the Pro races. Here's my race from a few weeks ago- the one where I cramped severely and by determination and luck, got 15th place.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

2010 Freedom Tour Criterium Results/Report

I pre-registered for the 35+ and the Pro-am for this criterium in Stirling New Jersey. The trip was supposed to include a teammate but those plans were changed last minute and I hit the road solo at about 5:00 Saturday afternoon. A friend of mine was hosting my layover in Cresskill, NJ. Haluk Sarci is the first [and last known] Turkish athlete to complete the Ironman in Hawaii, and repeatedly. The walls of his house were covered in photo finishes, medals, plaques, and enough honors to fill a museum. Haluk and his family took very good care of me. I don't usually sleep well the night before a 'big' event (one where I expect to do well) so I took an Advil PM before hitting the sack at 11:00.. I should have taken two. It took an hour to fall asleep and I was up at 6:45 to get ready for a 45 minute drive to Stirling. I got to town at about 8:30 and stopped at the market for some extra water, Powerade and my ritual can of Red Bull. Hunting for parking near the race course killed some time, and I settled on a completely empty parking lot on a residential street that was blocked by the booth containing the officials, the announcer and the camera- kind of like the street behind the Whaling City Cyclone. This parking lot was completely FULL by noon time. I signed in and got my numbers at 9:00 with 45-50 minutes to prepare for the start of the 35+. It was a hot day- already 90 degrees when we started racing. I made the mistake of thinking that one water bottle was enough for a 45 minute criterium. It was not. My water was all but gone with 5-6 laps to go, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.. Let me just tell you that in New Jersey, asking your opponents for water has about the same effect as asking them for the Crabby Patty secret formula. Stupid grins and laughter. Had I been racing in New England, my request for water would have been successful, that's for sure.. Again, I'm getting ahead of myself, but with 3 laps to go a couple of guys went up the road and everyone looked at me to chase for some reason and I was like, "Screw you- give me some water if you want me to work.."
In a nutshell, I felt GREAT today. The race started and I was immediately on the front, within the top ten guys for all but 2 or 3 laps of the entire race, and even then, not very far back.. I'm now in the habit of using my lighter Easton wheels (1480 grams isn't bad for alum clinchers- these are the wheels which originally came with my LOOK 486- tried and true..) INSTEAD of my G-D Powertap wheelset. I love the Bontrager RaceXLites to death , but they are absolute PIGS as far as their weight. As much as I love seeing good race data (the best kind) this race was a flat 0.9 mile rectangular criterium where I wanted an edge relative to acceleration especially out of the corners. Not that I was touching the brakes very much!- When you're racing in the top ten guys you can power through the corners while those behind you are often required to grab a handful of brakes and then sprint back up to speed. Race positioning 101, Murat gets a PASS.
So the race begins at 9:50 or so. We're racing 45 minutes, plus three laps. There were a few primes- all merchandise. I could care less for them.. The course was flat and fast. The finishing straight had a very slight rise after the final corner, and then a slight downhill to the line. Okay not exactly flat, but it may as well have been because it did not affect speeds too much. Two ends of the course are short- about 200-250 meters. A police radar was positioned just past the finish and I do not recall any laps where the speed was under 30 mph on this stretch. Had I looked up at it on the final sprint to the line, I would have expected to see 39-40 mph. At any rate, where was I?? Oh yes- feeling great. Nice light wheels, one water bottle, 70+ starters, 91 degrees and rising, lots of the same faces I raced against at Prospect Park last Saturday.. I went into this race with what I would rank as a nominal amount of training. You have all heard me pine about missing four consecutive weeks of training in late May and June. So indeed I have done some solid volume in July, but not one single structured interval, not one Wells Ave, Ninigret or Wompatuck, not one day of sprinting drills. All I have for high intensity is a few races- beginning with Attleboro, then a time trial in Scituate, then Prospect Park, then today.. Tuesday I did the Scituate time trial plus 3 more hours, 4 hours total. Wednesday I did 3-1/2 hours, rode down to Ninigret to a race that was cancelled due to thunderstorms, and then rode home in said thunderstorms, mostly tempo. Thursday I went out and did 2-1/2 hours easy. Friday I spun on the trainer for an hour. Saturday morning I did 3-1/2 hours extremely easy- like 125 watts average. I came into this morning feeling like I had a good balance of training stress and rest. Believing is 80% of the game and I was spot on for a change. The legs felt like they could not possibly get tired today. I was in the front, chasing attacks, bridging to attacks, following counter-attacks, attacking. Once or twice pulling the whole field along, which sounds stupid, and it certainly can be, but sometimes you need to show your teeth, show opponents that you are not a weakling, especially if most have never seen you before. It can pay dividends later.. except when... you're out of water with about 6 to go. Then they're happy to exploit weakness.. My mouth is dry. I have a shot glass or two swishing around in my bottle and I use it to wet my lips a few more times before the end. Three to go is announced and it really starts to get hot. And fast. People are taking chances. Faces I did not see all day, appear at the front, and it kind of annoys me because I have been dancing on the edge and having the wind blow my hair back for the past 45 minutes. I'm starting to feel fatigued, so fighting for position in the top ten becomes a little bit difficult. It gets physical. Two to go and we're strung out single file- it's starting to hurt, but it's a good hurt. One lap to go- bell is ringing. We're diving into corner one, then two. The back straightaway is insanely physical. Guys are taking crazy lines across the road to grab a wheel and not looking back. If you're not focused on this 110% you may as well sit up. We head into the 3rd turn, about 6-7 guys wide. I am on the right, about 15th rider from the front. Field is all together. There is a small curb comprised of little granite bricks cemented together. It's not very tall, but it's jagged enough to blow out a tire. I am riding the edge of these stones at 30mph, grazing them because everyone wants to take the final corner wide and fast. It's not far to the final corner. We string out to about 2-3 wide at this point. Another surge and I am positioned to take the turn within the top ten guys. I do not have an inside line though. Just as I am about to take the corner, riding on top of the guy to my left, I have this weird feeling, like maybe when my dad grabbed the steering wheel while teaching me to drive. Someone on my right had rode up into me just before the corner and locked his handlebars with mine, and the left horn of his brake lever was against the inside of my right wrist as we cornered at very high speed. I'm pulling left, he's pulling right, and I am imagining myself changing bandages for the next 3 weeks.. Then instinct takes over, I take my right hand off the handlabars and I lift my right wrist to release this tangle of arm/handlebar/brake lever. It has the effect of letting go of the rope in a tug of war. Whoever this rider was, he was slingshot out of the corner and down the side street while I completed my left hand turn with only my left hand on the bars. It was a split second hesitation of not pedaling right after I freed myself, but that's all it took for the front of the race to open up a gap on me. The finish is 400 meters away, but to keep in contact with this leadout train, I have no choice but to sprint, now. I get myself onto the tail of the action, which is already stringing out as the final selection is made, but the slight uphill turns into a slight downhill and I'm completely spun out. I attempt to shift but nothing happens. I punch it again and I get a gear which I can turn and I'm immediately on top of it. I pass about 3 or so guys who were torched before the line but 3 or so also passed me as I inevitably ran out of power. I ended up losing 5-6 places in the corner screwing around with tangled handlebars. It's a small miracle that I'm not in the hospital or covered with bandages. For all the success and good form of the past 50 minutes, the best I can manage is 15th, in what I consider to be a very highly ranked masters field. I set a realistic goal of top 10- I was expecting to finish in the money, and I almost did. If not for a little bit of bad luck, I would have had a clean entry into the final corner, with both hands on the bars and no hesitation. That's bike racing, eh?
On to the Pro race! At noon when it's probably about 95 degrees, but at least there was some wind. The field seemed to have about 100 guys in it, and the announcer was all giddy announcing this person and that person, Olympics this, Bissel that, Jackie Simes, GS Mengoni, an elite team from New Zealand.. all the things which might make a lesser rider want to shit his pants, the announcer was gushing. Immediately this 60 minute race is strung out single file. Your hero is tail gunning the first few laps, but slowly, surely, moving up. Every lap gaining a few positions. After about 30 minutes of very painful and fast racing, I have moved up through about 1/3 of the field. I'm hurting though- on the edge. I can really feel that last race in my legs. With extreme caution I'm metering out the effort so as not to waste a single watt. We're in the 44th minute, maybe it's lap 21 or 22.. two bikes in front of me look like they hit a patch of ice- these guys are sleeping on their right side tonight, that's for damn sure. This happens on my watch, right in front of me as I begin to lean. I'm prepared to bunny hop one of these guys, or one of their bikes, but they are sliding uncontrollably. It takes a split second to correctly predict their direction and pick a line, but not without grabbing two handfuls of brakes. I do not stop, but if I had to go much slower I may have had to put a foot down. I'm in the drops immediately, chasing an accelerating field. A few guys are tagged onto my wheel and for a second it looks like we can make it across.. so close. Then I come to my senses. I decide to go for a free lap. I'm the 2nd to arrive at the pit, and within 30 seconds another 10 people line up behind me. The announcer doesn't miss his opportunity to point out that since we were caught behind the crash, we were probably on the verge of being dropped anyway. Grrr. I was feeling fine and had every intention and ability to finish this one, dead last or otherwise. The field goes by and we all sprint to get back in the field before the first corner. I'm suddenly not feeling so good. Turn 2 goes by, the back straight has me cross-eyed. Turn 3 and 4 my teeth are clenched. (Indeed I had plenty of water this time) We're back on the finish straight and the announcer calls out that we're 48 minutes into our event. Twelve more minutes plus three laps, probably nine laps total. Speed is insane. I make it past the start finish and I'm all arms and legs, humping the bike to garner every last bit of speed. After turn one, I cut to the left side and wave everyone past me. Put a fork in me, I'm done. So close.. to.. the finish. That 1/2 lap of chasing after the crash took me deep into the red and no chance of recovering enough to hold the speed. From the sidewalk, I observed the last few laps of the race- some insane speeds. I watched the break of ten guys go past when the bell rang one to go, and they were blown apart completely when they arrived at the finish. The break didn't form until after I was popped- I bet it slowed down some right after I sat up.
Such is bike racing I guess. I hate DNFs!
It was a long drive home. Well, it should have only taken 3 hours but the approach to the George Washington Bridge was such that I went 4 miles in the span of 2 hours. Then more delays on I-95 passing through Manhattan and the Bronx. My trip home took 6-1/2 hours. If I had any idea how fucked up the GW bridge traffic is, i would have gladly driven 1 hourt out of my way to take the Tappan Zee Bridge, which is how I got to Cresskill in the first place. Who expects to be in line for 2-1/2 hours to cross a bridge? $8 fucking dollars to cross the GW? Never again. As I said to others already, I would sooner drive a knitting needle through my eyeball and into my brain before crossing that pig of a bridge again.
I kind of went out of my way to make this a good report for you, so I hope you enjoyed reading it. Thanks for reading it if you got this far! Here's the results of the 35+ and Pros:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Scituate Reservoir Time Trial No 1

It's no secret that I can't time trial my way out of a wet paper bag.. and that I do not count climbing hills as one of my strengths. Therefore, what better way to improve than by doing a hilly time trial? The Scituate Reservoir course takes you on a roller coaster ride of about 14.3 miles. There are 5 notable hills, and if I had to guess, this course has about 900-1000 feet of elevation gain per lap. The longest hill is 1 mile, though only the first half is what you would rate as steep. The rest of the hills are about a kilometer or less, and more like punchy rollers than hills. I rode there with backpack because I wanted to wear my skinsuit. Other than that, I was pretty much cannibal with my heavy Powertap rear wheel, though I did at least use my light Easton front wheel. No aero bars or helmet, no disk or shoe covers. There were about 15 triathletes there and 2-3 road guys, including a totally cannibal A.B., with long frame pump, saddle bag and all. Said A.B smoked everyone, including the fastest triathlete with TT bike and disk wheel etc.. That's another story. I called it at the start and it was as predicted.
At any rate.. I was slotted in to go 2nd to last, with the winner of past weeks starting right behind me. Long story short: I had one of the best 1/2 way splits, and I paid a price for it. I went out a bit too fast. I sprinted over the first three climbs in my big ring.. My 30 second follower caught me in my 19th minute at about the 1/2 way point and put another 3 minutes into me by the finish. This is a pretty clear indication that I fell apart like a Chinese motorcycle once we made the turn onto Route 12 approaching the last 2 climbs.. Along the way- yeah I caught and passed about 6-7 people. My time of just a hair over 40:00 is probably good enough for 5th or 6th.. whatever. It was my first try and these guys have been doing this for the past 5-6 weeks. The real objective of this TT was to get some decent data on the power meter, and from the normalized power numbers it's evident that I should definitely stick to sprinting and criteriums, but in fairness, I am down about 3 kg and the power relative to weight is actually more impressive than it looks. Will I go back next week? Maybe I'll decide after the taste of puke dissipates. That was hard. I rode another 160 minutes afterwards for a nice solid 4 hour workout.
Here is a link to past results, tonight's will be up in a couple of days. I can tell you that tonight's winning time was in the neighborhood of 35:30. The time trial starts at 6:00 on Tuesdays and the meeting place is "crazy corners" in Scituate, intersection of route 14 and 102. Most people drive there- parking is ample. It's a great bunch of guys and gals and everyone made me feel very welcome. Try it!
Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 19, 2010

2010 Al Toefield Memorial Road Race 35+

Well I'm working again- this time for more money (per hour) as a consultant. Let's see how this goes. My life is a Dilbert cartoon or something, I swear.
Thought I would let you know. The drought of June is over as of four weeks ago. I went from a block of 0 miles in four weeks (in June) to completing 937 miles in the past 4 weeks. Also- my weight is down to 165! I'm happy about that.
Saturday I went to NY to drop the wife and kid off at JFK (Turkey for 6 weeks). I stayed in NY to race Al Toefield Memorial at Prospect Park. That was a total blast- completely full field of masters, including lots of local talent. On Friday I did 15 endurance/tempo laps around the park (51 miles) as an opener, having taken Wed and Thurs for rest. My sister literally lives 3 blocks away from the park so I rode there (on 4 hours sleep) and lined up to start at 6:30 Saturday morning. We were doing 10 laps of a 3.4 mile course. I cramped up! Halfway through the race I was nursing cramped legs. Felt good otherwise! The big ring hill was pretty easy for me, even though I was using the upstroke to save my quads from seizing up. Four guys were up the road from the gun. I thought they were long gone. I didn't realize it but we caught them, so the final sprint was for the win, not for 5th place. That's not really an excuse for my 15th place, it was a pleasant surprise actually because I thought I was around 20th. Quite frankly, with two two go I was falling apart like a Chinese motorcycle on the climb, and thinking "just get to the finish, you're lucky if you do".. What incorrect thinking!! Leg cramps do not instill confidence though.. so I do not blame myself too much. Final time up the hill, it was pretty mellow. Everyone was watching each other, with the finish only 3 miles away. I pulled myself together! Riding primarily on the left side of the field turned out to be my mistake because in the final kilometer I made it up into the top 20 guys, trying to pick the correct wheels.. when the leadout train suddenly swerved to the right to go around the last guy who took a pull. I was caught out on the left, behind traffic. Fortunately the cramps did not blunt my sprinting instincts because I found the holes I needed to keep pace with the leadout, but totally exposed in the final 400 meters, on the left side of the road. I made up some ground but faded/cramped in the last few meters, where two guys barely pipped me at the line. The prizes were 10 deep, and after the finish I reckoned I was in the top 20. In NY they rarely ever bother ranking anyone who finished after the money makers, so I approached the camera person- extremely friendly dude on a laptop reviewing the finishes, and he offered to tell me where I ended up. That's when I discovered that there was no break up the road. That sprint was for the win. We counted from the winner back and I was 15th guy across the line, out of a full field of 85. In hindsight, I regret not knowing that we caught the break, but the reality of my final lap was that I gave it everything! My heart rate was pounding at 194 after the finish line. Scared myself a little bit actually. The real regret I have is being caught out on the left side of the leadout when the action was on the right. What I learned from this race is that I was strong enough to finish top 10. Maybe the laps I did in the park Friday were a few too many. Maybe getting only 4 hours of sleep was a big factor in the cramping.. Who knows! I'm pleased with this result, much more so than my "also raced" result at the Attleboro Pro crit last week. Now that I recall it, I also cramped in the 30+ race which followed (at Attleboro). Why why why??? I left out the scariest part of Saturday's event- the crashes.. They were spectacular. Parts of the Prospect Park course are very fast- we were going 35+ mph without any doubt on the downhills, closer to 40 when we were strung out. One of the crashes was behind me. I heard but did not see them. Two crashes were ahead of me and it was like an explosion in the field. Bikes and bodies were being launched outward from the detonation- I swerved hard to avoid a bike or a person taking weird bounces towards me. Two other crashed were to my right- in my peripheral vision and very scary because we were cruising at the time.. I felt like hay in a needle stack- and very lucky (skillful?) to have avoided all those falls.
After the race I did 8 more laps of the park to collect myself and cool down, though it was getting very hot. Including my two warm-up laps, I did 20 all together, about 68 miles. Racing at Prospect Park is a lot of fun and it's very well organized. The only thing I do not approve of is that if you're not in the money, you're not ranked- not on Bikereg, not on USA Cycling, not even on I love that there is a waist high pile of backpacks at the start/finish area- it is a safer place to be than you would imagine. They have been racing here since the 80s at least. In fact the 2nd time I ever raced a bike was at Prospect Park, back in 1988 (I did my first ever road race in a snowstorm the day before, somewhere near Albany). On a cold April morning at 6:00 am I remember standing in line with my buddy Derek Larson outside a van, where Al Toefield himself (I think) was collecting entries and handing out numbers. A young George Hincapie won that race (combined juniors and cat 3-4s?) and Yours Truly got his doors blown off. Has it really been 23 years since my first bike race?
Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 12, 2010

2010 Attleboro Criterium Results

For once I decided to do the Pro race first and it made a huge difference. Many of the 35+ participants did not survive the Pro race. I was tested so many times at this event, it hurt immeasurably to hang in there on some laps. I even managed to get off the front for a few with about 5-6 others. That put a lot of confidence in my legs and helped me survive to the ending. I pretty much sat up after hearing the bell lap and just rode tailgun to the finish, nothing left to contest the sprint for 10th place, with 9 up the road.. Team mate Alain snagged 3rd in the field sprint, 12th overall. I'm not in a bad place with form, all things considered. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The spell is broken

Recent career path changes have made it possible for me to ride whenever the fcuk I want. If you don't believe me just look at this week's volume: already 338 miles Mon thru Sat. The week before, I commuted to work for five days, logging 150 miles in my first week back from a four week drought of training. So far I'm pleased with my structural fitness relative to the time off. Today's 116 miler was completed with an average of 175 watts, in 6:15 for a relatively easy 18.5 mph average- I avoided putting myself into difficulty and did a proper endurance ride for a change, thanks to my buddy Eric who was with me, training for Ironman. His disciplined approach to riding 100 miles reigned me in and prevented an overuse injury, an incomplete workout and an early ride home for me. We rode side by side the whole time and chatted for hours about life- we hadn't seen eachother since 1989. Tomorrow I will rest but an active recovery ride with my boy Reis is not out of the question. Thanks.

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